California Gold Country is a big place, loosely defined as the Sierra foothills along California Highway 49. It's a place of history, with lots of cute little towns and winding roads. This getaway centers on the gold rush towns of Tuolumne County, including Sonora, Jackson and Jamestown.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Gold Country?
- Get a Preview: Take a look at our Pictures of Columbia State Historic Park
- Gold Country is popular with families, those who enjoy the outdoors, history lovers and antique shoppers.
Best Time to Go to Gold Country
Gold Country weather is best spring through fall and it can get a little cold in winter. The most popular time is summer, but spring and fall bring pretty flowers and nice colors.
If you've only got a day, visit Columbia State Historic Park just north of Sonora for a quick trip back to Gold Rush Days. The authentic commercial district is alive with shops, shoppers, stagecoach rides and gold panning (which is especially popular with children). You can even stay in the old hotel.
6 More Great Things to Do in Gold Country
- Railtown 1897 State Park: (2-3 hours) When the trains are running (April through October), a train ride from here is especially fun.
- Tour a Gold Mine: Put on a hard hat and go underground to see how the miners worked. For something more breath-taking, try their zip line.
- Antique Shopping: Any of the Gold Country towns has at least a few shops selling antiques, and you'll find several in downtown Sonora.
- Whitewater Rafting: Sierra Mac and Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions offer rafting trips on the Tuolumne River.
- Wine-Tasting: You might have thought all the wineries were somewhere else, but Amador County is home to a burgeoning wine industry, with wineries concentrated east of Hwy 49 along north of Plymouth. Use this guide written by Rick Spear of San Francisco's Blue Heron Tours to get some ideas.
- Take a Drive: Follow Hwy 49 north through Angels Camp for a scenic drive on your way home.
Annual Events You Should Know About
From mid-March through mid-April, Daffodil Hill's more than 300,000 bulbs and 300 varieties putson a flowery display that's worth a stop. Call 209-296-7048 before you go to be sure they're open.
Tips for Visiting Gold Country
- Sonora is the area's largest town, with a nice selection of shops, but a main highway runs right down main street and the resulting traffic noise and confusion dull its cuteness. We like smaller, quieter Jamestown better.
- If you're in downtown Sonora and looking for parking, there's a public lot on the left side of the main street as you're going north, about a block before you reach the big red church at the fork in the road. It's not well marked, which means a lot of people miss it.
One of the best ways to find a place to eat in Gold Country is tried and true: go to the one with the most people inside. If you're in or around Groveland, you can't go wrong at the Groveland Hotel. They've got a great chef and extensive wine list. And if your sweet tooth is acting up, head for Yosemite Fudge in downtown Sonora, where owner and candy maker Vikki can fix you up.
Where to Stay
Tripadvisor can help you find the nicest places to stay in Gold Country. Search for Sonora, Jamestown or Groveland hotels and don't forget to click on the B&B and specialty lodging tabs.
On the south end of Gold Country, Groveland Hotel is a personal favorite, with a room named after resident ghost Lyle. If you're interested in the supernatural, the 1859 Historic Jamestown Hotel is also reported to be haunted by a friendly spirit named Flo - and by all accounts, it's a very nice B&B, too.
Getting To Gold CountryGold Country can be reached by taking California Hwy 120 or Hwy 4 east to Hwy 49.
The nearest airport is in Sacramento.